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I’m off to Tanzania on honeymoon later this year, and have just got back from having received my Typhoid booster jab! So, as my arm aches and I feel a little bit sorry for myself, I thought hmmm why not find out and write a little about this gruesome disease. What is it? Typhoid fever is an acute, life-threatening illness caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi (different to the more common salmonella bacteria we hear about here) which enters the body through contaminated food and/or water. There are around 107 different strains of the bacteria and a few are resistant to antibiotics. It is primarily an intestinal infection which causes severe flu-like symptoms; the illness causes sustained fever, headache, a slow heart rate, constipation or diarrhoea, and a cough. There are annually around 17 million cases of Typhoid fever globally, with approximately 600,000 deaths.* How does it spread? The Salmonella typhi bacteria can only live in humans, you can get the disease if you eat or drink food or beverages that have been handled by people carrying the bacteria or if sewerage contaminated by the bacteria gets into the water used for drinking and washing food. Where can you get Typhoid fever? It is common in the developing world and tropical regions; parts of Africa, South America and Asia so if you’re travelling to these areas you should take precautions like me! The disease occurs where personal and environmental hygiene standards are low. If there are carriers around where there is a disaster which disrupts water supplies the transmission of the disease can increase. It is not prominent in Western Europe, USA, Australia or Japan although there have been odd cases in the UK; last year 3 children in Wales contracted the disease and 165 cases were reported in 2000. Most cases in the UK originate from people who have picked up the disease whilst abroad and have spread it here. What precautions can
I take against it? Your doctor or travel clinic will advise you if you need a Typhoid vaccination for the place you’re visiting. You need to have the jab at least a week before you go so it has time to take effect. There are different types of vaccine and you usually need a booster after around 2-3 years. I had my first Typhoid jab in 1989 and I was really poorly for a day or so afterwards, as was my mum, however this is a side effect we were aware about beforehand and the boosters I’ve had since have been fine. Obviously different people react differently and the injections probably aren’t so bad now. I know that there’s an oral vaccine available in the USA, but I’m not sure if you can get it here. You will need to take precautions whilst you’re away as well: Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it…. 1. Drink bottled water (check the seal is in tact before drinking) or boil or purify any water that you’re not sure about. 2. The above also applies to the water you use for brushing your teeth. 3. Don’t have ice in your drinks. 4. Try to avoid unpeeled fruit, salads, ice cream, cheese, shellfish, dairy products, and any food from street vendors and eating from open buffets, which may not be ‘fresh’. 5. Try and eat places which are recommended and have good hygiene standards (as far as you can tell anyway). 6. Make sure food is cooked well. Also take out travel insurance with good health cover, in case you do need medical assistance. What are the symptoms? Typhoid causes a very high fever, weakness, headache and other fluey like symptoms. Symptoms generally appear one to three weeks after exposure to the bacteria. It can only be diagnosed as Typhoid fever once tests have been carried out, if in any doubt consult a doctor as soon as possible. Can it be treated? Antibiotics are used to treat the disease and a
stay in hospital would be expected; deaths rarely occur as long as treatment is sought and given. Those who get the disease may become carriers and may need further check ups and antibiotics. Conclusion: Typhoid is a rather nasty illness which can be avoided if you observe good hygiene and are careful with what you eat in ‘danger’ places. The jab isn’t too bad, and as the GP will tell you ‘prevention is always better that cure’. Be wise and be vigilant. For more information: http://www.doh.gov.uk/traveladvice/ Department of Health Travel Advice http://www.travelhealth.co.uk/ Independent Health Advice http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/ Travel Health Advice provided by NHS Scotland. Visit your local GP at least 6 weeks before you’re due to leave. * Facts and Figures taken from www.who.int - World Health Organisation.
Typhoid fever is an acute, life-threatening febrile illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. Risk is greatest for travelers to the Indian subcontinent and to other developing countries (in Asia, Africa, and Latin America) who will have prolonged